How Food Can Strengthen Relationships

The expansive table of goodies we enjoyed for Dylan’s cumpleaños

Part of the Global Citizen Year curriculum is to deliver a speak-up, a short speech, to your cohort. This is an opportunity to gain public speaking skills in a safe environment, and an opportunity for Fellows to share their experiences with their peers and supervisors. Below is an abbreviated version of the speak-up I gave at Debrief Circle Two (our retreat where we can reflect on the adjustments we’ve made throughout each part of the immersion process.)

One of the first things people always ask me about my life in Ecuador is the food. “How is the food,” they ask, and I usually spout off something about how it is not particularly different than food in the states. For me, the quality of the food is less important than the company and the love that the food is made and eaten with. 

During the paro my host nephew, Dylan, turned five. My family was excited that I knew how to make a cake, and made sure that I had all of the ingredients I needed. While learning how to say each ingredient in Spanish, I mixed them together and quickly the pile of ingredients became a cake ready to be frosted. That night we gathered around the table, ate birthday cake, and watched the long anticipated meeting that would end the paro on live tv. 

Cooking with my family is an opportunity for me to learn vocabulary around the kitchen. But more than that it is a way for me to connect with my family. I enjoy learning how to make Ecuadorian food like empanadas, and my family loves to share that I helped cook a meal. Many nights I find myself staying up late at the dinner table explaining US news, learning about Ecuador customs, and comparing life in Ecuador to back home.

Back home, my family takes turns cooking dinner. We like to find new recipes and share them with each other. At the dinner table we will often share what we’ve made and then we’ll discuss current events, not unlike my life here. I have enjoyed sharing recipes from home with my family here. Likewise, my family here has enjoyed learning different recipes from the US. This cross cultural exchange has helped me feel more comfortable in my new home.

My host family has welcomed me with open arms and made a point to include me in their lives. Their generosity comes naturally, so when I asked if I could make them chicken soup, without pause they offered to kill one of our roosters for the cause. I have to say, he made a pretty good soup. Not to mention, that he went from pen to pan in less than an hour.